It’s barely been a year since the battle royale genre really kicked off and the floodgates have already opened. Fortnite and PUBG may be the top dogs, but with the glut of new and occasionally unique entries in the space, a viable third option has to show up eventually, right?
Enter Realm Royale, the newest game from Hi-Rez studios, a developer already known for putting out viable alternatives like the not-quite-Overwatch game Paladins and multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) Smite.
There’s a lot to like about Realm Royale. It’s fun, fast, and free (it offers a paid battle pass which unlocks new cosmetic items as you play, similar to Fortnite or DOTA). It’s also pretty damn familiar — for better and worse. From the game’s basic structure to its aesthetic, there’s a lot here you’ll have seen elsewhere.
This is not a brand new take on the genre, but it introduces a few twists to shake the game up, and adds some interesting and welcome quality of life improvements to the formula.
There’s a lot of fun to be had here. Just don’t expect it to reinvent the wheel.
Realm Royale – Gameplay
Realm Royale operates on a formula anyone who’s played a battle royale game will recognize. Up to 100 players drop from an airship into a shrinking playing field, scavenging gear and eliminating the competition until only one remains.
The game shakes this formula up by throwing in character classes and abilities. Before dropping into game, players can choose to play as a mage, hunter, warrior, engineer, or assassin. These classes all have the same amount of health, but each has slightly different attributes and wildly different abilities.
Each player starts with nothing but a knife and the basic ability of their class. From then they have to scavenge for weapons, armor, and abilities, looting chests found in most buildings across the map.
Another unique aspect to the game comes when you die. When you’re killed, the game doesn’t immediately end. Instead you transform into a chicken waving a white flag. As a chicken you can run and jump, avoiding the gunfire no doubt headed your way. If you can survive for 30 seconds as a chicken, you respawn, getting another shot at victory.
If you die as a chicken, the game ends and you drop all your gear, just like any other battle royale game.
Most of the time, this doesn’t give you much of a chance to come back. The chicken is slow, easy to hit, and makes a loud clucking noise when it moves. However, the handful of times I survived and respawned were immensely satisfying.
It’s a great mechanic when playing in four-person squads or duos, because teammates can pull enemy focus to give you time to revive. It also helps to avoid (at least a little) instances of teammates dying early and essentially just being along for the ride most of the game.
Realm Royale – Classes and Abilities
Each class has a basic ability that grants differing degrees of mobility. The warrior’s basic ability is a giant leap that sends him lunging forward into the air, closing gaps quickly. The mage can fly short distances. The engineer’s jetpack lets him leap straight up in the air, allowing for a peak at enemies behind cover.
Classes also have slightly different attributes. Healing potions are more effective for mages, assassins move 10 percent faster on foot, and warriors regenerate health slowly.
There are a handful of abilities for each class. The mage has a number of spells at her disposal, from basics like Fireball to more situational spells like Wall (really, it’s just called Wall), where you create a temporary wall of stone in front of you. The assassin can throw down a smokescreen or turn invisible, among other things.
On top of the basic abilities, each class currently has four abilities. Since players can only equip two abilities at a time, deciding which ones to take when they pop out of a chest can be pretty tough.
The classes and abilities are the main point of difference between Realm Royale and other entries in the genre. They add an additional layer complexity to the gameplay, but they’re not terribly difficult to grasp. Abilities can really change the way encounters play out, as quickly gaining the high ground, attacking an enemy’s flank, or getting in close becomes far more feasible than in Fortnite or PUBG.
Realm Royale – Gear
Abilities might be the most unique part of the game, but guns are still what you’ll use to do most of the damage. There’s a wide variety weapons in Realm Royal, from single shot rifles, to crossbows, to swords, and more. Much like in Fortnite, all drops are assigned a rarity rating dictated by color. Weapons, armor items, and abilities all follow the standard grey-green-purple-orange scheme established by World of Warcraft and a million other games.
The rarer the gun, the higher its damage. It’s pretty straightforward.
The armor in the game offers additional protection, represented by the yellow bar above the health bar. As you get more (it’s broken up into parts likes helmets and boots) and better armor that yellow bar gets larger, essentially increasing your health.
Realm Royale also introduces a crafting mechanic, which makes weaker or unwanted gear into something useful. When you come across something you don’t want, or swap gear out for stuff you do, you can disenchant what’s left into shards. Players can use shards at forges to craft new legendary gear, including abilities and class-specific weapons.
Forges sit near the center of most major town areas in the game. Crafting takes one minute and while the forge is working, smoke starts coming out of the top of the building, attracting nearby players and creating skirmishes in different areas across the map.
It’s a great balance of risk and reward to use the forge, and it’s really useful for pulling players together on the map.
Realm Royale – Graphics
Realm Royale doesn’t look bad, it’s just a little unremarkable. The game’s island setting has a pretty varied look, featuring a snow covered region to the north, a desert to the west, and more lush locales to the south.
There are rustic mining towns, asian and aztec-inspired villages, medieval castles and more. There’s even a town covered in giant mushrooms instead of trees. Forges pop up in most towns, as well as some of the areas’ more distinct landmarks, like a mountain pass near the center of the map.
For all its variety, the game — from its map to its character models — has a pretty standard fantasy aesthetic, drawing what seems like a great deal of influence from World of Warcraft.
It’s a fun, cartoony aesthetic, but it’s hardly the most original.
The game is pretty stable, though I ran into the occasional hitch or bug. Network issues — like dropped connections, and occasional movement and interaction lag — were more common than I hoped. I probably ran into a problem once every 10 games, though it rarely lasted long or really impacted the game much.
Realm Royale – Conclusion
Realm Royale is a lot of fun, but it’s not the most original entry in battle royale genre. The addition of fantasy classes and abilities is more intuitive and easier to learn than Fortnite’s building mechanic, but it can also get a little stale from time to time.
A lot of the game’s quality of life improvements really make it more accessible. Ammo is unlimited on every weapon. Each player can summon a mount (defaulting to a horse), which dramatically increases movement speed and opens the map up for a lot more of the game. You don’t need to land in, or even near the circle most of the time, especially since the horse actually rides faster than the storm moves for most of the game.
The chicken mechanic is cute and occasionally really satisfying.
The game is currently in an alpha state, according to its logo. Traditionally an alpha build of a video game is one where the core mechanics of the game are are all there, the look is on its way, and fine tuning has started. This feels very much like that.
Things have changed quite a bit since I started playing it. A recent update added automatic weapons and changed the speed of most guns’ bullets, making them more reliable. While this may seem good, it makes combat abilities seem less viable. There’s not much reason to use mage abilities like explosive flask and fireball when they move at a glacial pace compared to the near instant damage of the assault rifle.
Despite that, the guns all feel good to shoot, and plenty of abilities are still plenty useful.
Overall Realm Royale is an accessible, totally viable option for people looking to get into the genre, or those who want a break from PUBG and Fortnite. It’s just hardly the most unique-feeling game out there.
It’s also free on Steam, so why not give it a whirl?
Have you tried Realm Royale? Let me know what you think in the comments!